The Educational Big Bang

The Educational Big Bang

Editor's Note: Tom's opinions are controversial, but he offers an interesting perspective on meeting rapid development needs and making elearning affordable with video. In addition,OpenSesame's new SCORM video player makes video courses trackable in any learning management system.

E-Learning is dead, long live E-Learning.

We are experiencing an educational big bang. The world has embraced it, but we instructional designers seem to have missed out, caught in a quagmire of our own making. We’ve read all the books, steeped ourselves in educational theory and gained thousands of hours experience.

According to the Chapman Alliance Research Study, companies are spending on average 184 hours to produce 1 hour of medium level elearning. That’s one week's work to produce 10 minutes product. I’m suggesting that for not all, but many projects, we can bring this down to 15:1.

So how can we do it? Okay, I’m going to say a dirty word: YouTube. Yes, I know it’s mostly utter rubbish, but some of it is wonderful. If you want to know how to change a carburetor or use an iPhone, there are dozens of people who can show you. It’s this visualisation that’s so effective (if you want a weightier example, look up jove.com).

The standard YouTube producer will have created their tutorial in a few hours. I bet they’re not an instructional designer, trainer or project manager. But they create a sufficiently clear video to teach me what I want to know. The can do this because they are experts at what they teach. They’ve probably changed a carburetor hundreds of times.

I’m sure you’re thinking: What about the analysis, the storyboarding, the instructional design? I’m not saying these aren’t important, of course they are. But if you know a process really well, they’re less time consuming. When you teach a kid how to bake a cake you don’t analyse the problem, create storyboards, chunk the material. No, you show them. You know the process, you know the aims.

In the workplace, over 70%  of knowledge is learnt informally (Bureau of Labour Statistics). You wander over to an expert and say, “Can you explain sprocket management to me?” You’ll get someone who knows their sprocket management really well and who, like all of us, enjoys imparting that knowledge. The best bit is this person never asks multiple choice questions at the end.

Now, some of you will be thinking: Yes, but you had the opportunity to ask questions.

And that’s it, isn’t it? That’s what we do. We try to answer all of the questions when there’s no one there to answer them. With that in mind we create virtual worlds, software simulations and serious games. The 184 hours are spent trying to cover all eventualities, and I estimate we only succeed about 60% of the time.

So, here’s my great insight. Use Screen Capture software or video to produce lessons involving experts where possible. With this approach I regularly get a ratio of 15:1 development to learning, sometimes as low as 10:1.

I believe that all the user really wants is to lean over the partition and say “Psst, how do I this?” and to hear the answer, “I’ll show you.” With video learning, they can.


Thomas Carter is the Senior Instructional Designer at Clearly Strong e-Learning, a company that unleashes the potential of elearning to meet the training needs of the corporation. Find him on LinkedIn.